"The Mistake of Attributing Globalization to the Devil"

Father Piero Gheddo, Missionary of PIME, on Development

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FLORENCE, Italy, NOV. 18, 2002 (ZENIT.orgFides).- Don’t blame all the world’s problems on globalization, cautions a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.

PIME Father Piero Gheddo, who has been director of Mondo e Missione magazine for 35 years, is an expert on the missionary world. He spoke with the Fides news agency on the occasion of the recent European Social Forum.

Q: Regarding globalization: The idea of a world village founded on political, economic and ethic common values, not only surprises people, it provokes different reactions and often drastic opposition like that of the «no global» movements, who are at the moment in Florence for a Social Forum. What is the reason for this reaction?

Father Gheddo: The objections to globalization are understandable. In fact, it brings to the fore the tragedy of our world divided in two: North and South, those who have too much and those who have too little.

In the past, hunger did exist in the world but the hungry peoples lived in distant lands. Today, thanks to the development of new technologies and mass-media techniques, information and the exchange of ideas happens more rapidly, actually, in real time.

Therefore, economic, social and cultural contrasts between peoples emerge vividly: We live in the year 2000 after Christ and most of the peoples of black Africa in rural areas still practice subsistence economy. While in 1960 Africa exported food, today it imports about 30% of what it consumes.

So it happens that rich countries are ever richer and poor countries are ever poorer, and while globalized countries advance, the others stay put or go backward. The common market is considered to be the main cause, and everything leads to the idea that globalization is the new social concern of the 21st century.

Q: So, the «no-global people» are right …?

Father Gheddo: First of all, we must say that this attitude toward the phenomenon of globalization lacks in-depth analysis of development and underdevelopment.

Thanks to globalization, in the last half of century, much of the Third World has developed. I refer mainly to Asia, where progress is evident even in very poor countries such as Bangladesh, while countries governed by socialist dictatorships have not opened to a market economy — North Korea and Myanmar — have been left behind.

India had its last famine in 1966, less widespread than Ethiopia or Sudan, and with a population of 1 billion compared to 80 million, it exports food, while in Ethiopia and Sudan people die of starvation.

A 2002 World Bank study says that between 1990 and 1999 those living below the poverty line have diminished from 27.6% to 14.7% in eastern Asia and the Pacific; from 44% to 40% in southern Asia; from 16.8% to 12.1% in Latin America and the Caribbean; from 2.4% to 2.1% in the Middle East and north Africa. Therefore, the major cause of the gap between the rich and the poor is not the world market.

Q: Which are the main causes of underdevelopment?

Father Gheddo: A few years ago a Consolata missionary in Tanzania told me: «There are four pillars of African underdevelopment: fanaticism, illiteracy, corrupt government and armies.»

The radical cause of the increasing gap between the rich and the poor is the lack of education and democratic growth of the poorest peoples. The policy of governing [the] elite instead of aiming at education and health care for rural peoples, has privileged the cities — creating oversized cities where life is unbearable — and abandoned countryside.

Development can only come from education, evolution of the mind and culture, from education …, from stable governments, from economic freedom and world free market. In fact, the global market and those countries that live in peace, that are open to a market economy and have a sufficient education level and economic freedom, offer possibilities of rapid development which did not exist in the past.

At this point it is most important to remember the experience described by John Paul II in «Redemptoris Missio»: «The development of a people does not derive primarily from money, goods or technical structures but from maturity of mentality and customs.» Thinking about all this, I would also like to add that the slogan that reads «the South is poor because the North is rich,» or vice versa, is a huge lie that certainly does not help the poor peoples.

Q: Are there other positive aspects of the globalization phenomenon?

Father Gheddo: As the Holy Father said, «globalization a priori is neither good nor bad. It will become what people will make of it. No system has itself as ultimate aim, and it is necessary to insist on the fact that globalization must be at the service of human beings, of solidarity and common welfare.»

There are negative aspects of globalization, so we must be very cautious about such a new phenomenon: We must not attribute it to the devil nor must we acclaim it. Another aspect of globalization — that I think it is the most important aspect even if nobody ever mentions it — is its cultural and religious phenomenon: Peoples who lived far away from each other come together, discuss and argue; exchange of cultural and religious values take place.

This is undoubtedly a very positive aspect. For the first time in human history, there is a movement of peoples toward unity and not division, toward peace and not war, toward human rights and not oppression and dictatorship.

Because of all these reasons, it is an unforgivable mistake to attribute globalization to the devil. We must improve mechanisms, rules and workings and not go against an epochal fact that is inevitable and positive. Our times, and most of all our young people, ask for optimism and hope, not pessimism.

In the «no global» view there is too much pessimism and prejudice in regard of the modern world and the history of peoples who are rich and Christian. The evil is condemned but there is no recognition of the good that they done. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example, has its origins in the Western civilization, under the influence of the Word of God. Today, the principles contained in it are the common inheritance of all peoples.

Q: You have seen and shared suffering, poverty and misery, distress in all parts of the world, but also the hopes of individuals and peoples. From a missionary point of view, which benefits can be foreseen for the poor of the world?

Father Gheddo: First of all — as the Holy Father incisively recalls in his letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte» — we must start from Christ, and go back to the Gospel and to faith, renewing Christian life.

If we were better Christians, we would be able to understand and be of more help to the poor of the world. A proof of this is that Christian missionaries — both Catholic and Protestants — with their lay volunteers generate development among the poor, while government projects of international cooperation often build «cathedrals in the desert.»

Missionaries build bridges of understanding and reciprocal education among peoples; government projects do not. In this sense, it is necessary to rediscover a certain degree of austerity of life so as to be truly brothers and sisters of the poor.

We live too much in the superfluous and in waste. How much simpler life could be! We must also offer young people great ideals for life, educate them above all to face the challenge of our globalized era: to be brothers and sisters of the poor.

The development of people is a most complex theme. Our materialistic civilization reduces it to a matter of economy: rich and poor. Maritain says the root of human development lies in a people’s attitude toward God, from which its derives its culture, the idea of nature, the human person, work, the journey to the destination.

The mission of the Church
is to proclaim and bear witness to Jesus the only Savior of humanity. Human development comes from God and from Christ.

Missionary activity needs men and women who devote their life to educating and being educated, sharing, building bridges of understanding and solidarity between the North and South of the world.

The Church in fact was the first to globalize the world proclaiming the Gospel. As Jesus ascends to heaven he entrusts his mission to the Church: «Go out into the whole world proclaiming the Gospel to all creatures.»

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